Michelle Recommends: Wolves and Honey: A Hidden History of the Natural World – Susan Brind Morrow

Susan Brind Morrow brings her singular sensibility as a classicist and linguist to this strikingly original reflection on the fine but resilient threads that bind humans to the natural world. Anchored in the emblematic experiences of a trapper and a beekeeper, Wolves and Honey explores the implications of their very different relationships to the natural world, while illuminating Morrow’s own poignant experience of the lives and tragic deaths of these men who deeply influenced her.

Ultimately for Morrow these two — the tracker and trapper of wolves, the keeper of bees — are a touchstone for a memoir of the land itself, the rich soil of the Finger Lakes region in upstate New York. From the ancient myth of the Tree of Life to the mysterious reappearance of wolves in the New York wilderness, from the inner life of the word “nectar,” whose Greek root (“that which overcomes death”) reveals our most fundamental experience of wonder, to the surprising links between the physics of light and the chemistry of sweetness, Morrow’s richly evocative writing traces startling historical, scientific, and metaphorical resonances.

Wolves and Honey, attuned to the connections among various realms of culture and nature, time and language, jolts us into thinking anew about our sometimes neglected but always profound relationship to the natural world.

Don’t be surprised to find your reading list exponentially growing as you make your way through this slim (at 144 pages) and fascinating account of aspects of the natural world. After finishing Wolves and Honey, I went on to acquire more information on and books about the Silk Road, the Tian Shan mountain range and the apples grown there, honey gathering methods, and the connection between the near-simultaneous rise of the Spiritualist movement and electric phenomena.

Susan Brind Morrow’s approach to her chosen topics is an intimate one; she connects them to her childhood home in New York, to people she’s known personally and professionally, and to interests she’s cultivated across her life. She has written two other books: The Names of Things: Life, Language, and Beginnings in the Egyptian Desert and The Dawning Moon of the Mind: Unlocking the Pyramid Texts.